The interactive exhibit & installation Dunlop’s Pedal Powered Time Machine is up & running in Kilmarnock.
Created by Guy Bishop, Alan Brown & Matt Hulse, the show runs from May 30th – September 12th at the Dick Institute Museum & Art Gallery.
A few thoughts about this project, now that I have a little distance on it.
Museums are concerned with public engagement & The Dick in Kilmarnock is no exception. Public museums are not places where artists, or indeed artworks, are treated with that faintly embarrassing hush-toned reverence that’s common in art galleries.
A more pragmatic, practical approach is evident & the white gloves only come out if an artefact is fragile or easily tarnished.
We three visual artists – commissioned with public money & working within the context of a public museum – faced interesting challenges installing Dunlop’s Pedal Powered Time Machine.
It wasn’t clear, when we arrived with all ‘the stuff’, how best to position the work, both in terms of its physical placement (health, safety, accessibility etc) & its contextual placement within the museum’s gallery.
Context is everything when it comes to how work is perceived, valued & promoted.
Some elements are pick-me-up-&-use-me-please, the most immediately impressive of these is the rideable zoetrope. Other interactions are triggered by pedals, handles or magnets.
There are also quirky conceptual art objects, such as ‘The Blower’, a telephone hand piece attached directly to a bicycle pump. A spy hole in the free-standing door offers a peek of Dunlop himself.
Original artwork by Guy Bishop is also part of the picture.
A skeletal workshop construction frames the show, allowing each component element to stand freely & yet in its construction the framework incorporates the museum wall & a hefty museum artefact (a large wooden workbench) for support.
Do not touch! the works of art in a gallery continue to admonish, I am important.
Touch me say museum exhibits with increasing force, I belong to you.
Guy’s clever solution creates a visual context which places the work somewhere between a museum exhibit & an art installation, saying I am art in a museum.
The show could easily be packed up & transported a few miles eastwards to a contemporary art gallery like, for example, The Fruitmarket in Edinburgh.
Once installed in the gallery (no doubt with white gloves) the show would have been positioned as art & therefore perceived of as such, complete with all the attendant fuss, publicity & reviews. The work, however, would be identical.
This situation is frustrating for both the artists who made the show & the curators who commissioned it. The Dick Institute does not receive the kind of attention it deserves & Dunlop’s Pedal Powered Time Machine, whilst enjoying a busy & popular time in Kilmarnock, certainly deserves wider critical exposure.
With this project however the Dick is pushing boundaries, exploring contexts of presentation & gently eroding the artificial divisions between gallery & museum.
Besides, the extraordinarily informative & beautifully designed supporting catalogue is worth the trip in itself.
Ayrshire innovating, yet again.